Justin Trudeau sure knows how to steal a news cycle. This morning, the Liberal leader surprised everyone in Ottawa, a relatively rare moment in a usually predictable political bubble. Trudeau booted his entire team of senators from the Liberal caucus. Why? To do his part to rid the Senate of the smelly patronage that has so infested the institution for as long as anyone can remember. Most political leaders talk a lot about cleaning up the Senate, including the Prime Minister, and most, including the Prime Minister, stumble along the way. Trudeau claims to have no interest in stumbling.
Conservatives and New Democrats howled. Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic reform, says Trudeau’s simply cleaning house in advance of a scathing auditor general’s report into Senate expenses. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair made the same speculative claim. He couldn’t help but mention that the NDP had the idea of removing partisanship from the Senate last October—and the Liberals went and voted against the proposal, going so far as to call it unconstitutional!
So, among these weeds, where is the truth? Is Trudeau pre-emptively dodging the wrath of an auditor general? Is he a hypocrite? Is he throwing his senators under the bus? Is he democracy’s latest saint? John Geddes considers the questions.
For their part, Liberals are pleased with their newly halved caucus. MPs are calling it true leadership. Senators are saying they’ve been set free and can now more effectively serve the country, though Paul Wells wonders about the permanence of this new arrangement and how senators really feel. Whatever you believe, and however this turns out for the Liberals, the party in the corner of the Commons has proven once again that the bubble’s attention is theirs for the taking. Even if no one knows what any of it means.
Meanwhile, veterans’ groups are becoming Julian Fantino’s worst nightmare. The veterans’ affairs minister is under fire for his treatment of those who served in uniform. Yesterday, he skipped a meeting with a bunch of veterans. Now, they want him fired. So does Mulcair. If today’s big shock wears off, and anyone tunes into Question Period, they’ll witness a flustered Fantino.
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